THE PROMPTS FOR THE MONTH
1. SOMETHING PURPLE: Bhujel Sir with his predominantly purple gho. It is great that the colour palette is equally available to men and women, when it comes to national dress in Bhutan and if anything in everyday clothing it is the men who wear the more vibrant colours and often pinks and purples.
2. IN MY HAND: as much as I enjoy wearing Bhutanese national dress on a daily basis, because it is ankle length I often have part of my “kira” in my hand just to be able to walk but most especially when I have to climb up or down these stairs just outside our front door
3. SHAPES: Bhutanese architecture contains many hand-carved wooden shapes. These are the lower windows in our home. They are all approximately the same size and shape but they are totally sealed and cannot be opened hence the blurry smudges on them.
4. GOOD TOGETHER: These two students were certainly very good together - exactly what the Peer Learning Support Club is supposed to be all about
5. NOT MINE: and not theirs either but my home class VIIIC have adopted 3 trails near our school and this stretch of road between the primary and middle schools and have pledged to do a clean up campaign to remove all the rubbish and put up bins to reduce the reoccurrence.
6. A TASTE OF SPRING/ AUTUMN: Noticed this iris blooming on campus today. No stem to speak of but still a definite taste of spring.
7. WHERE I’D RATHER BE: In Manhattan at the top of the Rock or anywhere else with that skyline visible (taken 2008 on our second visit to the Big Apple)
8. HOBBY: our purchase of just 5 hula-hoops for the primary school has not only created a sudden epidemic of kids whose hobby has become “hulaing” but also dads with the new hobby of making home made versions for the smallest of their offspring. I love that this one made by one of the Dzongkha (national language) teachers, is also covered with the cloth so often used in temples and on altars.
9. DARK: I have felt dark all week about the number of teachers who feel it necessary to have and wield sticks as punishment. This one is purpose built and every time I see a student sent to fetch it from the staff room I shudder. A line of a poem I have been teaching class VIII comes to mind. “He moves in darkness, it seems to me,”
10. MY FAV PART OF THE DAY: like many of these primary students on the track between the school and our home, my fav part of the day is often ‘home time’ Today they were all preparing for Sports Day on Saturday hence the lack of traditional dress and uniforms.
11. THREE OF A KIND: well almost but they were trying their level best to be uniform and fair at SMSS Sports Day: -the finish line judges for declaring place getters!
12. ON MY LEFT: as I was leaving the primary school campus today it occurred to me that it was our new home up there on my left
13. MORE PLEASE: Every single day, 3 times a day our boarding students line up to receive their meals and no matter how many times I see them I always think of those lines from Oliver Twist, “Please Sir, can I have some more?” Of course they can always get more but they rarely do. Their diet is often bland potato or radish “curry” with rare treats of meat or eggs on special occasions but they don’t have to pay a ngultrum for it. Along with their basic boarding facilities, the government provides them for the token annual fee of less than $1
14. DIRTY: not only dirty but also dangerous considering this is a primary school classroom wall
15. I ’M READING THIS: my long standing rule of reading only about the country I am living it at the moment, taught to me by a dear Dutch (Thank you Jan) friend, more than 2 decades ago, has been broken this time in Bhutan because I have read almost everything worth reading, available for purchase or in a school library and published in English about this country already, but I am glad that this is one of the few books I currently possess that fits the bill and I am savouring it right now
16. MY VICE: My true vices would have to be cheese and wine but in Bhutan neither are a possibility! This is my Vice Principal greeting the Member of Parliament for Wangduephrodrang District as he arrived as the chief guest for the Sports Day held last Saturday. I actually think excessive pomp and ceremony are the major vices of the whole country so this just about sums it up for me.
17. SOMETHING I LEARNED: from our first stint in Bhutan- if you have an addiction to real quality coffee, not instant, then bring it with you, buy it whenever you see it and protect your stash! You can see we have learnt our lesson well and are true addicts in this respect.
18. GOOD: India may not be famous for its coffee but not only is this coffee good it is even better that it’s available here, well, in Thimphu which is not that far away.
19. MONEY: Bubble Gum is a form of money in Bhutan as it is often substituted for the one-ngultrum notes which are hard to come by! Although I am not running a photography club at SMSS, I usually have my camera with me. Therefore students constantly request photos with their friends, and this of course means getting them printed and collecting the payments. With the current price in Bajo set at Nu 12 per print I end up with a purse full of tatty, old, small denomination notes and handfuls of bubble gum to give out as change
20. EGG: Although I am not seriously trying to learn Dzongkha this handy picture dictionary can tell me many simple words when I need to know one. The real egg I substituted for the sketch took on a ‘surface of the moon’ type appearance when it was flashed
21. CLOSE: Many an experience on the lateral road in Bhutan is really ‘too close for comfort’ but somehow despite the narrow margin for error and the sheer drops concealed in the fog we have at least thus far, managed to survive. This shot is from our road trip crossing the country from west to east and back again last September but the local roads where we now live are if anything more treacherous given that they are not sealed at all and the monsoon is coming.
22. FOUR THINGS: When I saw this prompt what immediately came to mind is this image of “Four Friends.” It is depicted on almost every monastery, dzong or temple in Bhutan and many private houses as well. It is the well known fable of how the strong and mighty elephant, needs a monkey’s agility to get the fruit from a tree but the tree itself would not exist without the seed carried and deposited by the bird and the nurturing of the roots underground by the hare. These 4 creatures also represent the four terrestrial habitats: underground, ground the air and the sky. It is a story of the connectivity of the all creatures in the natural cycle of life and its extols the virtues of co-operation
23. ENTRANCE: probably one of the few entrances in a school that students would rather be on the outside of and are definitely not trying to get in. I myself felt exactly the same way when I was summoned to the principal’s office today and I must say my instincts were not wrong!
24. A POP OF COLOUR: Literally! Not one but many lollipops of several different colours actually and there would have been more if we hadn’t been doing grammar practice and needed a bit of a motivator. I know this would be unacceptable in most educational institutions but in a boarding school in Bhutan where treats are few and far between it is indeed a real motivator
25. REMEMBER: the war memorial in Adelaide. I can remember, as a teenager in the 70’s refusing to attend the dawn service or watch the ANZAC Day march because like so many others at that time, I believed it was glorifying war, and then reconsidering and realizing that the sacrifices made require acknowledgement, are worthy of respect and need to be remembered. “Lest we forget.” Years later as a city resident walking to this very memorial for the dawn service became an annual ritual and though we are now thousands of kilometres away I have been somber and contemplative all day today.
26. ENJOY THE LITTLE THINGS: After a trying week and an ordeal to get out today, even with no power in Bajo, a slightly cool beer is a little treat well worth enjoying in the candlelight.
27. UNDER MY FEET: walking back from the Sunday market in Bajo this morning we saw huge gum trees along the side of the road and though many places consider them a pest, I delight in seeing them here in Bhutan and all across Asia. For an Aussie a long way from home it brings joy to my heart to have gum leaf litter under my feet
28. CHAOTIC: moving the book collection in the store, from the hut to the room above the kitchen at Samtengang Primary School, using hundreds of little hands. That narrow staircase was certainly a scene of chaotic activity!
29. CONTRAST: After a brief rain shower today there is a noticeably clearer view across the fields and beyond to the distant ridges. This is in sharp contrast to our usually hazy view with little but a blue, grey silhouette of mountains discernible
30. SOMETHING SILLY: a monk, with a penis attached to his mask, playing the role of a jester (apsara) with the specific intention of amusing the crowds at Tshechu: the annual performances of masked dances in monasteries and temples all across Bhutan.
This photo is from Trashigang Tshechu in Nov 2012